Category Archives: Budget

September is the Month for Budget Bipartisanship

September is the Month for Budget Bipartisanship

Marge Clark
August 24, 2017

The House and the Senate will return to the Capitol on September 5 with serious tasks before them. There is not yet a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), however members are proceeding to votes on funding all 12 appropriations bills without top line spending limits in either chamber. Current spending authority from the FY17 budget runs out on September 30, and additionally, the debt limit must be agreed to by September 29.

Members of Congress continue to work on tax reform, and they hope to use the reconciliation process to bypass the need for Democratic votes. If reconciliation is used, passage in the Senate needs 51 votes, rather than 60. Reconciliation, however, can only be used after a budget has been passed, the same in House and Senate. This is not looking promising. One escape from this requirement for Congressional leadership may be through use of the existing FY17 reconciliation approved for healthcare, which they were not able to use. This is possible if the parliamentarian is in agreement with the change.

The House has passed a package of four appropriations bills nicknamed the “security minibus” with hope of bringing an eight-bill “megabus” to the floor in early September. House appropriations bills exceed the defense spending caps set in a 2011 agreement by an additional $72 billion in defense spending for 2018. Nondefense spending is set at $4 billion below its cap of $515.7 billion. Surpassing the 2011 limits will trigger the sequestration process, unless there is a bipartisan deal to raise the caps – which has been done in previous years. The House will most likely pass appropriations bills along party lines – no need for any Democratic votes. However, Democrats continue to push for parity (that there be some increase in nondefense spending whenever there is an increase in defense spending). They have given up on an equivalent increase.

The House realizes its appropriations package would be very unlikely to pass in the Senate where it needs Democratic votes. The House bill, then, simply exists for the purpose of expressing the severity of cuts Republican leaders want to make to human needs assistance to the elderly, children, those unable to work, and people with physical and mental disabilities.

The Senate has yet to pass any appropriations bills. The appropriations committee has begun working on six bills, but none have gone to the Senate floor. Their bills are being set at current year spending levels. Even this would break the 20111 statutory cap by $2 billion (defense) and $ 3.8 billion (nondefense).

As previously mentioned, exceeding the caps triggers extreme, automatic across-the board cuts called sequestration, unless both chambers come together to form an agreement to raise the budget caps for FY18. This has been done in FY16 and FY17. It is unlikely that can be completed before the end of September, despite Speaker Paul Ryan’s assertion that talks with the Senate are happening, and that they will act before the deadline.

Appropriations are must-pass legislation. If there is not agreement by the end of September when the FY17 budget runs out, the options include a Continuing Resolution (CR) or a government shutdown. A CR could be put in place until December – which has frequently been done in recent years.

One issue contributing to the likelihood of a September 30 shutdown is President Trump’s insistence that funding for the southern border wall be included for FY18. If funding is not resolved through a CR, the border wall could also cause a shutdown in December.

Additional “must-pass” legislation includes raising the debt limit. It is clear that Congress cannot use accounting tricks to pay the bills any longer than September. We do not want to default on our debts as a nation. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin calls for a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling, meaning no spending or cost cutting demands attached. Members of Congress as less inclined to do this. The debt ceiling is a great place to put pressure on members to pass something that has split support and would be hard to pass.  It is possible that “the wall” would be attached to raising the borrowing limit – which cannot be put off past September 29, according to Mnuchin.

Funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is also must-pass in September, as its authorization and funding run out at the end of September. This could also be used as a place to raise the debt limit.

August is quickly coming to its end, and the September 5 return of Congress is almost here. Since members have not really started negotiations over raising budget caps, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers are predicting a short-term continuing resolution. Most do not want to chance a shutdown, and they need more time to develop a final spending plan. Stay tuned!

Time for Moral Leadership on the Federal Budget

NETWORK Lobby’s Federal Budget Priorities

Download as a print-friendly PDF to share with your friends, or elected officials!

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NETWORK believes the federal budget is a moral document that reflects the priorities of our nation. Our budget must prioritize human needs programs, ensure funding to care for vulnerable members of our society, restore economic opportunity, and invest in community.  The challenges facing our nation and our world are serious and require a serious response from government.

The Budget Reality

Since 2010, powerful forces have converged to use the federal budget as a vehicle to lower the federal deficit by cutting social spending. These cuts are drastic and destructive, and they undermine programs that provide critical assistance to our nation’s most vulnerable. Meanwhile, tax breaks for wealthy corporations and outsized military spending, which cost billions of dollars, have been expanded.

From FY 2010 through 2016, funding declined for large numbers of human needs programs. FY 2017 funding was the seventh straight year of austerity for human needs programs, driven by the multi-year caps from the 2011 Budget Control Act and further reduced by additional budget cuts. In 2018, human needs funding is set to fall by $3 billion if Congress does not take action to stop the cuts.

Our Values:
  • The budget is a moral document.
  • Catholic Social Justice teaches us to uphold the dignity of each person as an equally valuable member of the human family.
  • As people of faith, we must be in solidarity with those who are living in poverty in the struggle against structures of injustice.

Federal Policies Must Mend Gaps, Not Widen Them

Elected officials must make budget decisions that promote the common good. This requires adequately funding programs benefiting vulnerable people while rejecting superfluous spending.  Investment in human needs programs will create stronger, safer, and healthier communities and promote the common good. Increasing funds for immigration enforcement and borders will not increase our security and must be rejected.

For FY 2018, NETWORK’s priorities are funding for the Census and Housing. We reject additional funding requests that would further militarize our border and harm immigrants in our communities.

Learn about funding in the Federal Budget for: Census, Housing, and Homeland Security.

Is There Reality in Funding the Federal Government?

Blog: Is There Reality in Funding the Federal Government?

Sister Marge Clark
March 13, 2017

Funding for the current fiscal year ends on April 28. Congress needs to complete plans for funding the federal government for this current fiscal year and at the same time begin to create a budget for 2018.   Since Congress is on recess for four weeks before the April 28 deadline, there are only five weeks to get the job done. Decisions on appropriations will impact a number of NETWORK “Mend the Gap” priorities, but three programs are particularly vulnerable:  housing support for those in poverty, healthcare funding and funds to conduct the 2020 Census.

We know that funding for these programs mean so much to the lives of those in poverty.  Pope Francis reminds us that, behind every statistic, there is the face of a person who is suffering, … “Poverty has a face! It has the face of a child; it has the face of a family; it has the face of people, young and old. It has the face of widespread unemployment and lack of opportunity. It has the face of forced migrations, and of empty or destroyed homes.”

Housing vouchers are particularly at risk for this year. The current budget allotted $500 million less than the amount needed to fund currently held vouchers for the rest of the year. CBPP estimates that more than 100,000 vouchers could be lost in the next few months. 100,000 households could become homeless unless we can secure new funding.

The Affordable Care Act continues to be under attack.  One of the key ways opponents may move to cut the program is to defund its operating system.  House appropriators, for several years have denied the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the IRS new funding to cover the administrative costs of ACA implementation.   These funds and more are at serious risk.

Past decennial censuses have tended to undercount communities of color, people experiencing poverty, immigrants, young children, Native Americans and rural residents. The systematic undercounting of these communities decreases their access to federal funding and proportional representation. If the Census Bureau does not receive increased funding to conduct necessary tests and prepare for 2020, we fear that these gaps in the census will persist.

This year, the funding decisions are particularly daunting, as the administration and many House Republicans are determined to increase military spending while adhering to the top level spending caps established in the Budget Control Act, 2011.  Doing this necessitates cuts in non-defense spending – mostly human needs programs – in order to not exceed the caps.

Further, at the Trump Administration request, Congress is considering a 2017 Supplemental Budget.   They propose that it would cover the added cost of the President’s “deportation force,” which we have seen escalate its activities in the last week.  It would include some war costs, but mostly would cover the cost of President Trump’s Border Wall which ranges from estimates $8 billion to $21 billion.  Removing this from the FY 2017 appropriations does not relieve all of us from paying for it. We would still need to fund the Supplemental through our tax dollars.  NETWORK will actively work to stop this bill.

In addition to completing work on the FY 2017 Appropriations, Congress faces passage of a Budget for FY 2018 – which goes into effect October 1, 2017.  They have yet to receive direction from the President, other than broad statements of cutting non-defense spending by a stunning $3.7 trillion over ten years. This equates to a 43 percent drop in meeting the basic support of people with limited income.

Increases in military spending and unwillingness of Congress to increase revenue put the burden of balancing the budget on the backs of people in need by reducing spending on human needs such as housing, healthcare and the census. This is in direct opposition to what NETWORK Lobby and Advocates for Catholic Social Justice continue to work to achieve. It is imperative that all of us engage with our members of Congress frequently to influence their spending decisions. We need to work hard to protect the dignity of all people in our communities.

Gaps are Closing, but More Must be Done to Create an Economy of Inclusion

Gaps are Closing, but More Must Be Done to Create an Economy of Inclusion

By Lucas Allen
September 22, 2016

Nearly nine years after the start of the Great Recession, economic recovery has been painfully slow for many Americans and vast economic divides remain. However, promising new data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 2015 was the best year of economic improvement for low- and middle-income Americans in decades. Here is some of the good news revealed in the report:

  • The poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968
  • Real median household incomes rose by 5.2%, the largest increase since the 1960s
  • The percentage of Americans who lack healthcare fell to 9.1%, the lowest uninsured rate in our nation’s history

Most importantly, these economic improvements were distributed to all Americans—not just the wealthiest. This Census report shows that in 2015, our country made some much-needed positive steps toward mending the gaps in our divided society. While these improvements are certainly promising, a closer look at the report shows that we have much more work to do to create an economy of inclusion. The shared growth of the past year is welcome news, but it has not changed the reality that far too many people are struggling to get by in the world’s richest nation. It is a grave injustice that women, children, and people of color continue to bear a disproportionate burden of this suffering. The poverty rates of women who head families (36.5%), children (19.7%), and African Americans (24.1%) are all far higher than the average poverty rate of 13.5%.

One cause for hope in this report is that federal programs are working to lift people out of situations of poverty—they just need to be ramped up. The improvements our country makes, and the gaps that persist, are greatly impacted by policies and decisions made by Congress. For example, the Earned-Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) kept 9.2 million people out of poverty, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) kept 4.6 million people out of poverty. These large numbers are hard to picture, but they represent millions of families who are able to make ends meet with support from these programs.

In his address to Congress last year, Pope Francis said, “A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.” Programs such as the EITC, CTC, and SNAP are great examples of legislation based on care for people and the common good. If you and I make our voices heard this election season, we can ensure that programs like these are protected and expanded to create an inclusive economy and society.

More resources:

Blog: Will We Have a Clean Budget or Poison Pills?

Will We Have a Clean Budget or Poison Pills?

By Sister Marge Clark
June 27, 2016

Both the House and the Senate are working their way through funding bills (appropriations) for fiscal year 2017, which begins on October 1, 2016. Unfortunately, they are muddling through without the benefit of a budget that would allocate the amount of funding for each of the twelve areas of annual discretionary spending. This is because members of the House remain divided on what the overall spending amount should be: abide by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement signed by House and Senate in late 2015, or spend less—breaking yet another agreement. This disagreement opens the door for amendments that will benefit some special interest groups and limit spending on our common needs.

House Republicans often use this chaos to add things – whether it be harmful cuts to government assistance programs, or eligibility restrictions—that are undesirable or even irrelevant to the bills at hand. We refer to such amendments as “poison pill” riders. They ride on the bill, often without discussion or a separate vote. Examples of this include addition of work requirements for those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or drug testing to receive housing assistance. These added strategies further devastate the hopes of people trying to live in dignity and improve the status of their family.

NETWORK’s Mend the Gap principles and policy recommendations promote legislation that will allow families to live in greater dignity and move to a more stable position in their community. NETWORK Lobby is working to keep these “poison pill” riders from damaging the legislation necessary to ensure sufficient housing and healthcare and to protect workers and their families.

Last year, as the spending bills were rolled into an “omnibus” package to be voted on as a single bill, advocacy groups were successful in keeping poison pill riders off the package. We worked with one voice across very divergent groups, because we all see the potential damage to our communities. Now, the fight is more difficult because we have to fight riders on each individual spending bill. It takes more time to study and analyze each individual bill, and it takes more awareness of issues other than our own greatest concerns. But together, we fight on.

So far this year we have been successful in the Senate. There have been very few poison riders introduced. But, there are many bills to go. In the House, there is a constant need to watch what amendments are proposed, and to demand that members consider the implications of each of these amendments on the good of all the people, not just a privileged few. The further into the appropriations season we get – and the closer to the election – the more danger there is of amendments cutting assistance to people who are vulnerable. NETWORK Lobby continues to work for clean legislation for our nation’s spending priorities.

Pope Francis’ Impact on the Catholic vote in 2016

Commentary: Pope Francis’ Impact on the Catholic vote in 2016

By Simone Campbell, SSS
May 5, 2016

When the Bernie Sanders campaign announced plans to visit the Vatican, more than one journalist asked me for comment on the oddity of a progressive candidate seeking to associate himself with an institution whose views are antithetical to much of what he espouses. This, I believe, is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the majority of Catholics in America view the role of their faith in their political and civic life. Call it the Pope Francis effect. It is real and, because Catholics are the preeminent swing voters, it will matter a great deal.

In this, the first presidential election in the era of Pope Francis, attempts to control the “Catholic vote” through issues of personal sexuality – often nothing more than a crass political calculation – will no longer work as well, if at all. Instead, those who seek to divide our nation will find themselves up against a spiritual leader who has taken the teachings of our faith that have resided for many in the dusty tomes of Catholic scholarship and philosophy and made them breathing realities in our daily lives. In doing so, he has energized Catholics to embody the center of our faith – active concern for the common good and attention to the needs of those around us.

And then he has taken this sacred work a step further. The pope has reminded our elected leaders and all of us that individuals, churches, and communities, while vital to the work of taking care of each other, cannot be expected to do it all alone. The work of ending the vast disparities of wealth and opportunity in America and around the world can only be accomplished by implementation of policies on a grand scale, a political scale – a tax policy under which everyone and every corporation pays its fair share and all employers pay their workers a living wage; policies that encourage a “family-friendly workplace,” recognizing that the economy is at the service of workers, not the other way around.

This call has not been the least bit coy or veiled. In his speech before Congress in 2015, Francis told our elected officials, “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all of its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.”

The pope’s words have clearly broken through to the professional political class, though whether it is through their hearts as well as their talking points, I leave to others to decide. For proof, look at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s public apology for his past rhetoric blaming the poor for their own poverty. Were Ryan to also publicly recognize, for example, that his mea culpa did not go far enough, and that the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid to those who are most vulnerable is a pro-life position, perhaps the transformation would be more believable.

Ultimately, though, Francis recognizes that politicians are essentially stand-ins for the rest of us. It is the electorate who must heed the call to become politically active. It is up to us to recognize that in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known, the fact that there is still a vast difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor is a collective wrong that we have a moral obligation to make right.

Hence the pope’s repeated calls for Catholics to “meddle in politics,” his repeated calls to, yes, feed and house and meet basic human needs from our parishes, but also to go out into the world and call for, vote for, big change – a reformed immigration policy that recognizes and embraces the dignity of our brothers and sisters, regardless of where they happened to be born; national spending priorities that recognize the need for safe, affordable housing as greater than the excitement over a newer, faster, deadlier weapon of war.

While Catholics do not vote as a single bloc, they are nonetheless a renowned bellwether in the political world, having voted for the winner of the popular vote, with one exception, in every presidential election since Roosevelt.

This year will not be different. When the chattering class analyzes the “Catholic vote,” as it will inevitably do – both before and after the primary and general elections – it will find that in this year of mercy, our votes stretched far beyond our self-interest and to the common good, that we turned out and voted for the needs of those who are most often left out of our care. We will be called the “Pope Francis voters.”

Originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Blog: Over 500,000 Adults will Lose Assistance to Keep Food on the Table

Over 500,000 Adults will Lose Assistance to Keep Food on the Table

Mary McClure
February 16, 2016

In a matter of months, over half a million people living on the margins will no longer receive a critical tool to help them get enough to eat each day.

This year, 23 states are implementing a time limit on how long certain individuals can receive food assistance thorough the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program. It responds quickly to changes in the economy, and serves families, individuals, children, older adults, and people with disabilities. While the majority of households that receive SNAP benefits have a person who is working, a portion of the population either cannot work or face barriers to meaningful employment.

Catholic Social Justice calls us to uphold the dignity of each person as an equally valuable member of the human family. Because of each person’s essential dignity, everyone has a right to all that is needed to allow her or him to reach full potential. This particularly applies to basic needs, including food. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Jesus taught his disciples to pray by asking the Heavenly Father not for “my” but for “our” daily bread. Thus, he desired every person to feel co-responsible for his [or her] brothers [and sisters] so that no one would want for what he [or she] needs in order to live. The earth’s produce forms a gift which God has destined ‘for the entire human family’” (Angelus, 2006).* [1] l

Our shared responsibility for our sisters and brothers is precisely why we are so alarmed that approximately half a million Americans will lose eligibility for SNAP benefits.

The people at risk for SNAP time limits are able-bodied adults without minor children. These are some of our nation’s most vulnerable members; research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) indicates they are a very poor, diverse, and underserved group. Because of low education and skill levels, many enter in and out of work in low-paying jobs that do not lift them out of poverty, while others experience deep poverty or chronic homelessness. These individuals are eligible for few safety net programs while they are employed and almost none for when they are not.

While the population doesn’t fit in any specific category, we know some information about the people who will be affected:

  • 45% are women, 55% are men
  • About 30% are over 40 years old
  • About half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic
  • They live across metro status: 41% suburban, 39% urban, and 21% rural

The time limit provision, part of the 1996 welfare law, restricts these people to three months of SNAP benefits during any 36-month period if they are not employed or in a work training program for at least 20 hours a week. Many states enacted waivers to this limit during the recession and following years due to the limited availability of jobs, but as the economy recovers, the waivers are expiring.

It is essential to note this policy is not a work requirement—it’s a time limit. This law does not require states to offer employment or job training to people who are unable to find a job, and does not provide funding for this purpose. Many states have few or no work or training programs. SNAP recipients who do not find a job, despite looking for work and a willingness to work, will still lose their benefits after three months.

Currently, it is unlikely that Congress will act to protect this group, but there are steps that states can take. States can and should waive the time limit in areas of the state still struggling with high unemployment. They should also ensure that they are not applying the time limit to exempted individuals, including many who are experiencing homelessness. Finally, states must do what they can to provide job training services to people who will be impacted so these people can continue to receive the help they need to get enough to eat and gain the skills needed to secure employment.

At NETWORK, our faithful response to food policy discussion is to ensure all people have their basic nutrition needs met. We remember the words of Pope Francis, who said “The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone” (Homily, 2015). [2] It is wrong to impose a time limit on this safety net program, especially when adequate resources are not provided to ensure employment for a very vulnerable group. It is wrong that in the wealthiest nation on earth, people still go hungry. We must continue to bring faithful voices and attention to the problem to our friends and neighbors.

For a more in-depth look at SNAP time limits, please visit the report from CBPP.

*Quote adapted with brackets for gender inclusivity

Blog: A Message from Sister Marge Clark about the Federal Budget

Marge Clark, BVM
Dec 16, 2015

Blog: A Message from Sister Marge Clark about the Federal Budget

Dear NETWORK Members and Friends,

There is GREAT excitement today!

The Omnibus text, which details FY 2016 federal spending, was published just after midnight this morning and much to our relief and joy the proposed “Poison Pill” riders did not materialize. We worked with hundreds of organizations in a “No Riders” coalition that later transitioned to “No Poison Pill Riders,” as the time of appropriators’ decisions came near. This happened because we all recognized that there would be some riders in the budget – as negotiation points for both parties. We defined poison pill riders as policies that would damage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), target immigrants and immigrant families, and hurt the environment, among other important issues.

With other members of the coalition, NETWORK participated in a fun activity last week to communicate our “No Poison Pills” message to House and Senate offices. We made a special delivery to each office: a pill vial with a warning label about the dangers of policy riders and a letter about the demands we were making – all accompanied by a “prescription” for not being harmed by the pills.

We also engaged with you, our NETWORK members and friends, on social media and with requests for calls and emails to House and Senate members over the last few weeks on this important issue. And I want to say congratulations to all of you! These efforts paid off!

Those most disconcerting riders are NOT included in the omnibus.  We have avoided the fear of riders on the budget that would curtail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by a demand for a change in structure and authority, ones that would create more barriers for our immigrants and refugee brothers and sisters, and ones that would significantly roll back environmental protections. Instead, we are able to focus on the primary work of this legislation: setting the funding levels for government agencies and programs in the coming year.

Thank you all for the great advocacy!!

With Gratitude,Poison Pills_0

Sr. Marge Clark, BVM

Blog: Putting People First in Our Budget Crisis

Blog: Putting People First in Our Budget Crisis

Rachel Schmidt
Oct 13, 2015

The federal budget is a complicated piece of legislation, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. “Wonky” data, words like “sequestration,” and polarized political parties are enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over. However, the budget is not merely something elected officials tend to busy themselves with. It is essential to bring about the common good, the development and fulfillment of all people in society, by creating a faithful budget.

Too often in budget negotiations, Congress neglects to bring forth the faces and stories of people who are intimately affected by cuts to human needs programs. It’s easy to get lost in the ideology of politics and deficit reduction, but like Pope Francis insists, “service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.” Therefore, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the real issue:  the federal budget is a tool that must faithfully serve the common good.

The political landscape has made finalization of the federal budget difficult. Initially, the fear was that sequestration would take place. Sequestration means that programs, both on the defense and non-defense discretionary sides of the budget, are automatically cut once previously established budget limits are reached. In theory, sequestration was supposed to be too horrible to go into effect, but in reality, the threat of this austerity measure is becoming more commonplace. In recent years budget negotiations have led to the government shutting down, programs being stopped, and government workers not being paid. It’s these political games that endanger the wellbeing of people in the most vulnerable situations, who rely on safety net programs funded from the non-defense discretionary side of the budget.

Congress had a deadline to approve the Fiscal Year 2016 budget by September 30 in order to keep the government fully operational for the next year. They did not actually come to a final decision by this time. Instead, they passed what’s called a Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide short-term funding through December 11 and put off addressing the real issue of planning for the next fiscal year. Now, as the December deadline approaches, we must be diligent in requiring Congress to commit to funding a faithful budget that serves the common good.

Again, it’s important to remember that a budget is about more than just numbers; it’s about people. To learn more about how this affects real people, watch these two stories from our friends at Witnesses to Hunger:

This story of Jahzaire Sutton shows the stress and impact budget negotiations can have on small children. It is unbelievable that in the United States a mother has to go hungry so her children can eat. Cuts to the program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) could be disastrous for families like Jahzaire’s. Since 2010, WIC has been cut 17.4%.

Jahzaire’s mother is already skipping meals. Do we want Jahzaire and his younger siblings to go hungry too? As a society, are we willing to do what it takes for the future of our children? When Congress makes a commitment to providing for the common good, people like Jahzaire’s mother won’t have to go hungry anymore.

This story of Tianna Gaines Turner shows how a family could rely upon several programs funded by the government due to economic hardship or medical needs. Cuts across the board can mean that Tianna’s family won’t have access to as many resources for health, utilities, and food, which are necessary for day-to-day living. For example, Community Health Centers  have already been cut nearly 40 percent in the last five years. We aren’t going to reduce our deficit by more cuts to human needs programs that have already been decimated.

Tianna was vulnerable enough to share her own experiences of having to make these choices in testimony before the Ways and Means Committee of Congress to enumerate to importance of not making cuts to the federal budget; they better listen! How will you do what it takes to make sure Congress remembers that people’s lives are at stake with these budget negotiations?

Unfortunately, Congress is more interested in increasing funding for the defense budget than making sure families like Jahzaire’s and Tianna’s are cared for. Confusing terms, political jargon, and party politics cannot be excuses to ignore the importance of a faithful budget that fully-funds human needs programs for all families who need support from society. We must answer Pope Francis’s call to encounter and stay connected to people and their stories to keep perspective. We must uphold these values as responsible residents of the United States. We must require that our legislators not forget the development and fulfillment of all people in society.